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Thursday, 22 January 2009

An NVU with Joseph Dirand - Architect & Interior designer - photos by Adrien Dirand

Dear Shaded Viewers,


Before Christmas I had the pleasure of meeting Joseph Dirand chez Rick Owens. Joseph is designing the new Rick Owens shop in London and is a great admirer of the Rick Owens furniture line. Of course after the dinner I wanted to visit his website and check out his work. My visit inspired me to request this interview.


DP: How did it all start for you? Do you remember the first building or interior that you saw that left a real impact on you? How old  were you and what was it about the structure/interior that struck you?

JD: During my studies I had the opportunity to start in 1996 working for private clients since I was 21 years old. I did a few shops, private apartments and houses in the same time as my studies. I can remember images and experiences when I was young that made be want to become an architect. For example, about 20 years ago I visited a felt room by Joseph Beuys at Beaubourg, the visit of the Ronchamp Church by le Corbusier, a sculpture of light by James Turrell, the Versailles garden's of Le Notre, a picture of a traditional Japanese tea room, the Cistercian abbey of Thoronet and a chair from Gerrit Rietveld. Your inspirations can come from anywhere and everything and your personality comes from your reaction when facing things and the way you transform your culture into your personal experience.

DP: Did you have a formal education in architecture, if so where did you study and di you apprentice anyone afterwards?

JD: Yes, I studied architecture at the Architectural High School in Paris and graduated in 199. My only experience with another architect was with Jean Nouvel in 1999 and that was for three months before I created my own studio. 

DP: I remember at dinner you were talking about discovering the innovative French architect and designer Jean Prouve, how did you learn of his work and what was the first piece of his that you collected? How many Prouve chairs and tables do you own?

JD: About 15 years ago I was in a free market and I was really attracted by the architectural structure of his furniture. I have 6 chairs of his, 1 dining room table, 1 desk and a bed all by Jean Prouve. The funny thing is that now I am working on the booth concept for the international design fair for the Jousse Gallery which specializes in Jean Prouve furniture.

DP: Are there architects in your family or what was your introduction  to this field?

JD: No, but my father was a photographer specializing in interiors and architecture so that it was a part of my education. Also my father always told me that one of his dreams was to be an architect. So, it was probably a great motivation for me to do this for him. This photographic education inspired my work a lot, the idea of frame, light and contrast are some of the most important principals in my work.


DP: How did you develop your vision of spatial perception?

JD: I was always attracted by minimal art and architecture. I like the principal of interaction and evocation of a pure space.

One of the first roles of architecture is to answer to a function, but one of my obsessions is to try and create abstraction around this functionality and dissolve domestic functions into sculptural forms. My work is often composed in two different phases, the first is to create a frame according to the context and after to confront this space with a sculptural composition and to create a discussion between space and architectural objects.


DP: Le Corbusier had a 5 point theory in his design: freestanding support pillars, open floor plan independent from supports, vertical facade that is free from the supports, long horizontal slidding windows and roof gardens, if you had to break down your own philosophy, what would your main concerns be before developing your designs?

JD: I don't have an architectural theory like that, my considerations are more about the feeling that a space can create. I think that my work is about creating a singular experience in a space, playing with perception, light, contrast, confrontation, composition and abstraction. I also try to work with the idea of Mies Van Der Rohe on essentiality when he said, "Less is more".

DP: Were there many of your projects that never got built before you made your break through?

JD: Not so much, of course there were some projects that did not get build but I think those projects are just as important as the ones that are realized. 

DP: Have you been in many design competitions?

JD: Just a few, I won a public competition for an institute of research near Paris INRIA in 2000 for a building that we finished last year. We also did two unbuilt competitions, one for the Dom Perignon headquarters in Epernay in 2007 and a few months ago for the new restaurant in the Grand Palais with the group Costes. Otherwise we are working mostly on private orders.


DP: You opened your firm in 1999, who was your first client?

JD: The Japanese fashion designer Junko Shimada in 1996, that was 3 years before I finished my studies. 


DP: You are known for specializing in projects for prestigious residential and commercial spaces, which ones have presented the biggest challenges and how did you resolve them?

JD: All projects have their own challenges and I feel that in general great projects come out of major constraints. One of the difficult things in minimal architecture is to make everything disappear. The important point is to never forget an idea because you think it will be too difficult to realize. Probably the only negative constraint is when we do not have enough time to realize a project the way that you want and when we need to change an original choice because we don't have the time to make it right.


DP: It is said that you work on projects under a photographic visual angle through the discovering of framings, perspectives and contrasts, what is your approach to that?

JD: As I told you, it comes from my background. This principle is expressed in using a lot of black and white. It's not for an aesthetic reason, it is because this contrast expresses the architectural composition of space with the maximum effect. This contrast creates a strong rhythm in a very pictorial composition.

DP: Did you ever see the 1920's film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and if so did it leave any particular impression on you?

JD: No, but I will try to see it so I can see why you consider this film could leave a particular impression on me. Cinema is also a great source of inspiration. You were talking about Stanley Kubrick and I think that the film 2002 A Space Odyssey, for example, had two scenes that were very inspiring for me. The first scene was with the black monolith in the middle of nature, this points out the power of evocation of a pure shape when seen out of context close to the idea of land art, it's also the relation between time , nature and humanity.The other is the space at the end of the movie which is a fusion of a futuristic and a classical space. In making this fusion between past and future Kubrick created a new present. Future cannot be built without the notion of historic heritage. I'm also very inspired by the films of Jacques Tati. I like the way he showed the relation between humans and modernity, as humans became slaves to progress on the one side and on the other side the way that this evolution created beauty. I'm working on a hotel in Mexico City in which my inspiration comes a lot from the Tati film, Playtime.


DP: Your firm is called Joseph Dirand Architecture, do you design the exterior's as well as the interiors, or where does the line of separation come between architecture and interior design?

JD: I'm working on both and I don't thing that there is any line of separation. For example architects like Peter Zumthor, le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, Eero Saarinen, or Luis Barragan demonstrated how architecture can not be conceived without the notion of interiors.


DP: You've worked in France, New York, Tokyo, Moscow and Mexico, how did your approach differ in each of the countries and what were the projects?

JD: It's great, all of those projects bring in so many different sources of inspiration from the different cultures and people. The answers are a balance between your own culture and the way you get inspired by other cultures.


DP: There is a lot of press on your design of the Habita Hotel in Monterrey, Mexico, how did that come about? Was this the first project that you brought in the furniture of Rick Owens?

JD: I really enjoyed this almost three years of work in Mexico and it was my first hotel project. I travelled all over Mexico to get inspired by this incredible country. I think the Habita Monterrey project relates in a singular way to the landscape, the climate and the life style of Monterrey. 

I tried to redefine the codes of luxury and comfort with simplicity and sophistication. I was very happy to hear people at the opening saying that it was the project that Monterrey needed. I think this is exactly what architecture is about. The furniture of Rick Owens was the perfect sculptural pieces to mix into this project and worked particulary well in the sculptural concrete lobby.

DP: What are your plans for the Rick Owens shop in London and when do you think we can see it?

JD: Surprise!

DP: The materials that you used for Habita Hotel were concrete, black onyx marble, mirror mosaics are these materials that you are particularly drawn to or did you find that they represent the mystery of the oasis within the oasis?

JD: I like to use local materials which is more about logic than contextual. That is the reason that I used onyx and Santo Thomas marble and cement for Monterrey that is related specifically to Monterrey and Mexico in general but the base city of cement is Cemex, the biggest producer of concrete in the world and surrounded with mountains.

The idea to use a block of marble for this project comes from a mountain close t the site. It's totally poetic and essential. The mirror mosaics come from India, I liked using the tiles that you usually find in the palaces of Indian Maharajas in a very rough and sculptural space in concrete, it gives both materials a new expression. Concrete becomes a luxury material and the mosaics become almost a futuristic texture that captures the light of day and night.

DP: Have you designed other hotels?

JD: No, that was the first one and I'm glad that for my first hotel located in the industrial city in North Mexico, Monterrey, that we won the prize of the Best Conceptual Design Hotel 2008 (IRHA). We are now finishing our second hotel in Mexico City for the same group which will open the end of February. The hotel rooms will be on the top  floors of a tower which starts on the 25th floor overlooking the whole city with a 5 m high ceiling in all of the rooms. 

DP: What are your requirements before taking on new clients?

JD: We just need to like each other in order to start an exchange.

DP: I know that you are busy at work on Rick Owens shop but are there any other projects that you would like to talk about?

JD: Besides the Rick Owens shop in London and the second hotel in Mexico City for the Grupo Habita that I already mentioned and that will open the end of February, I am also working on two private villas in Moscow, an interior design for a big luxury residential tower in Beirut, one loft for the Russian artist in Paris, a restaurant in Mexico City, an apartment in Mexico and exhibitions for international art faair for the gallery Jousse in Basel, London, Miami and Paris.

DP: With all of those projects going on at the same time, how do you manage your time and do you have any time to sleep at night?

JD: It is only when I don't have enough work that I cannot sleep.


Dian e

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how about some portuguese design, with the lovely brand Munna? see their great work on

Posted by: Christopher | Aug 5, 2010 12:27:29 AM

Get Inspired with

Posted by: Filipa | Apr 9, 2010 10:16:02 AM

I am both writing to share my anthusiasm towards Joseph Dirand's work and to ask for your help: Would you help me identify the leather couches (the white angular ones from the project "Anatole France") serounding the Art Déco chimney next to the Serge Mouille lampadaire? Or the massive curve-legged black dining table on the left...?

Many thanks in any event.


Posted by: Nick | Aug 11, 2009 10:36:35 PM

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